Written by Nick Dubin, who has Asperger Syndrome (AS) himself, this book gives both a personal and professional insight into the experiences of people with AS as they go through school and enter adulthood. The author recounts how, as a child in the US, he was humiliated by teachers, taunted by his neighbours, tormented by his tennis coach and ostracised by many of his school peers. As a result he contemplated suicide on several occasions.
This book is however more than a personal account of a troubled childhood. The author also provides a useful summary in chapter two of the nature of AS, which is concise and accessible to the non-expert. In addition to the standard descriptions of AS, Dubin adds personal accounts of his own experiences as a result of his increased gullibility, lack of dating experience (as a teenager), unusual use of language, and ‘cultural illiteracy’ where people with AS often spend more time on their particular special interests (he cites his own interest in interstate highways) than on pop culture, thus further distancing themselves from their peers. The example is given of a girl with AS who was singled out in her class for not watching American Idol and not knowing what being “voted off” meant.
The remainder of the book offers very practical advice on how the bullying of children with AS can be prevented. The focus here is on empowerment: of the victims, bystanders, teachers, parents and schools. In terms of the children themselves, Dubin speaks of the fundamental challenge faced by children with AS: as a result of their AS, it can be very difficult to make friends and relate to others in ways which might be considered socially appropriate. Moreover bully-prevention strategies often focus on the building of friendships with peers as the main pre-emptive strategy, the very thing which children with AS often find hardest. Dubin writes however that parents should be encouraged to find other opportunities for social interaction based on their areas of special interest, where their passion for a particular subject can be appreciated and nurtured, irrespective of the age of the other people involved. Dubin himself spent hours playing tennis at a club and was never bullied in that context, where he felt comfortable. The chapter on empowering bystanders complements the research of Salmivalli, Olweus and others in recent years who have identified the importance of encouraging peers to move from a position of passive support or indifference to one of prevention, intervention and defending.
The book concludes with an interview with the author’s parents who look back at their experiences of parenting a child with AS, even before there was a clear diagnosis. Interestingly, they note the importance of the diagnosis itself, and the reassurance it gave. Mom: “What I wish I could go back and change is all the pressure I put on you to socialise more while you were growing up. It made you feel that I didn’t love you for who you were and created terrible conflicts between us. The diagnosis gave me an understanding, which I previously lacked, and has finally enabled the love that we feel for each other to be uncluttered by my placing unreasonable expectations on you” (p.150)
There is much that teachers could learn from reading this powerful book.
See more details here.
The Education and Training Inspectorate of Northern Ireland (ETI) has recently published two short reports based on an innovative new pilot project to promote greater collaboration between mainstream and special schools in the province.
Given the rise in the number of children with SEN in mainstream schools, it is both important and timely that expertise is shared between the two sectors. In addition, such inter-sector collaboration was identified as an area for development in the NI Chief Inspector’s Report (2008-2010).
The first report Special and Mainstream Schools Working Together (ETI, April 2012) is essentially a series of case studies based on a pilot project facilitated by the ETI. In total twenty-four special schools were invited to participate in a project of their own choosing with a neighbouring mainstream school, and were asked to submit a joint self-evaluation report at its conclusion.
Projects were many and varied. Two examples are outlined below:
- Erne Special School worked in partnership with Portora Royal School, Enniskillen on a music and drama project. Pupils and teachers from Erne Special School benefited from the subject expertise of the Portora teachers (the school has had specialist status in Performing Arts), while the mainstream pupils developed greater awareness of disability and SEN. The mainstream teachers identified their own capacity building in the area of teaching pupils with SEN, and were encouraged to disseminate their differentiation skills to colleagues.
- Kilronan Special School worked together with Magherafelt Primary School on an early years play project. Here pupils interacted and played with the toys in their respective schools and were able to interact very successfully. Staff were impressed by the increased independence of some of the children from the special school, and also by the way in which some pupils from the mainstream school took an interest in a non-verbal pupil from the special school, came and sat beside her, held her hand and said hello. The report notes that this was “a lovely moment”.
The report includes many more inspiring reports of projects which have produced very positive outcomes in a very short period of time. Plans are already being made to extend the projects in the coming year.
Accompanying this set of case studies is A Guide to Collaborative Practice (ETI, April 2012). Here the evaluative reports submitted at the conclusion of the pilot projects have been distilled into a series of guidelines to support schools in the future as they would seek to develop effective partnerships and overcome the practical challenges of turning the vision into reality. The guide highlights four key strands of effective collaboration, each of which is explained in detail:
- Identifying a clear rationale and strategic approach to collaborative working
- Deploying resources and agreeing shared responsibilities to enable the collaborative work to progress smoothly and to address any difficulties which may arise
- Building a collaborative ethos and school commitment to inclusive planning
- Monitoring and evaluating the impact and establishing the sustainability of further collaborative action and outcomes.
To read the reports in full, click on the links below:
Special and Mainstream Schools Working Together
A Guide to Collaborative Practice
This year’s annual conference organised by the NI branch of NASEN (National Association for Special Educational Needs) will be held on Saturday 20th October 2012 at Stranmillis University College, Belfast.
The theme this year is ’Spotlight on the SEN Resource File’, published recently by the NI Department of Education, and written by teams of teachers, ELB advisors, ITE lecturers and other educationalists from across the province.
The conference opens at 9am and concludes at 1.30pm. The busy morning will begin with a keynote address by Gillian Boyd (DE), responsible for the publication of the resource file.
Nasen UK Chief Executive Lorraine Peterson OBE will be leading the seminar relating to “The challenging role of the SENCO” and will also be sharing additional valuable new SENCO materials that will soon be available as online resources.
9.35am The ‘A S P I R E’ Document – Resource: Dr Brenda Montgomery
9.55am – 10.55am Session 1 – Choose one seminar
Seminar A Understanding Memory Difficulties – Dr Sharon McMurray Seminar B The Challenging Role of the SENCO Lorraine Petersen OBE Seminar C Gifted and Talented Children- Challenges and Opportunities Dr Noel Purdy
10.55am – 11.25am Refreshments Break and Publishers
11.30am – 12.25pm Session 2
Seminar D Moving from Individual Education Plans to Personalised Learning Plans- Dr John Hunter & David Ryan
12.30pm – 1.30pm Session 3 – Choose one seminar
Seminar E Supporting pupils who have specific difficulties with Maths in the Primary School Deborah Henry Seminar F Autism Spectrum Disorders – Attention Autism Jill Drysdale & Lorraine Scott Seminar G Understanding and Managing Social, Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties (SEBD) Dr Brenda Montgomery
1.35pm nasen NI Branch – Annual General meeting – all delegates are welcome to attend.
The cost of the conference is £20 for NASEN members, £30 non-members, £20 classroom assistants/parents/carers, £10 full-time students.
Booking is open now. Forms can be downloaded from the NASEN NI website.
This is a collection of 21 first-person accounts written by fathers about their experiences of parenting children with disabilities. First published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers in 2007, this remarkable volume has a foreword by the then UK Opposition leader (and now Prime Minister) David Cameron who writes openly about his experiences as a parent of a child (Ivan) with severe disabilities.
In the stories which follow, these 21 ’different dads’ each tell of their experiences of coming to terms with the fact that their child has a disability. For some it came as a complete shock with no indication prior to the birth that anything was ‘different’ at all, while for others the nature of their child’s condition came to light much later, for instance, as developmental milestones were missed and diagnoses made. Some dads speak of struggling with local authorities and medical experts to gain access to appropriate services and support for their children; others speak of the responses of people they encounter in the streets (is the staring a sign of concern, curiosity, criticism?); some dads also talk of how their personal faith has helped them to come to terms with their child’s condition. Each case is unique and each perspective adds something different to the picture which is gradually built up of parents’ daily joys and challenges. It is a complex but important picture.
What is ‘different’ about this book however is that it is the fathers (and not the mothers) who are writing. Too often, they claim, dads are left out of consultation processes, sometimes quite inadvertently, sometime perhaps from an assumption that they are not interested. These dads quite rightly object to this, and argue strongly that they should be included as much as their partners. As one dad explains, a failure to make an appointment due to work commitments does not mean that they do not care. It just means that some things cannot be dropped to make room for all the appointments which parents of children with disabilities have to go along to.
This is a refreshingly honest book, at times very moving, at times very humourous, but always engaging. Each story is only a few pages long (and includes a short explanatory note on the nature of the disability) so it is perfect book for busy dads to read in short bursts. It would also make recommended reading however for (student) teachers, classroom assistants and healthcare professionals to gain a valuable and rarely glimpsed insight into the world of fathers in their daily interaction with the children they love.
See link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Different-Dads-Parenting-Disabled-Children/dp/1843104547
All children in education must be assessed regularly and their progress reported to parents.
For some children with special educational needs the levels of the national curriculum may not be appropriate. In the UK there is a system for assessing those with special educational needs called the Performance Criteria Scales. (P – levels). These have targets on eight levels. These P levels might be useful for target setting.
Although there are lots of commercial tests available for diagnosis of learning difficulties, they should always be used with caution. There can be many reasons why testing does not always give an accurate view of a child’s strengths and weaknesses.
Ideas for start of year
Sometimes it can be difficult to know where to begin. You might consider giving a new pupil 10 minutes time for free writing. This will give you an idea of writing speed, spelling, sentence structure, vocabulary. You could check understanding by asking them to read silently for a short period and then asking questions on the text. Phonic skills can be tested by giving a list of non-words with single and double sounds. You might try dictation to check for spelling also.
Assessment for Learning (Afl)
List of Assessments Used 2002 RoI
Maths Assessment Tasks (Harvard Graduate School of Education)
Digit Memory Test
In this area we will publish the work of student teachers and their pupils. If you have any materials which you would like to share we would be delighted to receive them.
Numeracy activity to help pupils deal with bills The Weakest Link
Integration of Environmental education, ICT and Art for pupils with Behavioural and Emotional Difficulties Autumn
This is the second lesson in a series based on animals, beginning with cave paintings Colour Theory and Mixed Media
Block printing with a mixed ability class Print Making
Creative textile work with pupils who have physical disabilities The Sea
Introducing gears and mechanics to low ability Year 12 class. (15/16 year olds) Gears and Mechanics
A geography lesson on the countries and capital cities of the British Isles The British Isles
Observational drawing with a challenging class Print Making
One lesson of a scheme of work based in the workshop where safety and behaviour is a major issue Balancing Toy Manufacture
This lesson involves soldering components on a circuit board LED Clock
Investigating and realising work with a mixed ability class 2D, 3D drawing, lettering and self-portraits
A lesson which deals with aspects and types of music which are associated with each country Music of the British Isles
Part of a scheme of work related to Cultures and Celebrations Christmas Cakes
A is for Autism (Channel 4 NAS Publications Dept)
Rain Man (Warner Home Video)
autism an introduction (Dept. of Education, DES, ISA, PAPA)
The Ages of Autism (NAS Publications Dept)
Education: preparation for life (DSA 1995 020 86824001)
Epilepsy and Diabetes – A Guide for Schools (Pink Cow – available from Epilepsy Action)